The day after leaving Seccondee and fourteen days after leaving Liverpool our ship drops anchor in the Accra roads. Accra as viewed from the sea makes us think of the east coast of England round Yarmouth way; there in the distance is the same type of low sandy beach with white-capped billows and the spray of breakers fringing the foreshore, and a town on much the same level in the background. On closer acquaintance with Accra, those of you who happen to know Yarmouth will discover that the two towns have nothing in common except this similarity of site, but I think you will agree with me that the experience of landing at Accra on a calm day is very like a pleasure trip in a row-boat at Yarmouth on a day when the sea there is rough enough to make most pleasure-seekers decide to remain on land, but not unpleasantly rough for people who are very good sailors.
Fortunately the sea is very calm to-day. Are you ready to go ashore ?. Here come the surf-boats, and from what I know of our host he will be in one of the first of them that arrives alongside, one of the first of friends from the shore to welcome friends aboard.
The popular Captain is on the look-out to see us off; he adds to his many kindnesses to us by acting as our light porter. The equally good-natured purser, who has volunteered to superintend the"transhipment of our heavier baggage, presently rejoins us armed with his camera. The Mammie Chair, draped with the Union Jack, awaits us; it reminds us of a swinging boat made for four, such as we have seen at village fairs. In we step, the first batch of us . . . the next moment we are hoisted into mid-air to the tune of a donkey engine at work, and dumped overboard ... at the end of a rope we hang dangling in space . . . now we are dropping down, down, the little boats below look a long way out of the line of our fall, and the steamer grows to a mountainous height. A second later we recognise the voice of the Chief Officer shouting commands from somewhere up above, hear a babble of strange tongues below, catch a glimpse of black hands reaching up to us; then, with a bit of a bump, the Mammie Chair comes to rest on the floorboards of a surf-boat. We edge our way out and, as we take our place in comfortable wicker chairs that have been placed in the boat for us, up goes the Mammie Chair to fetch another load of human cargo.
Ten strapping nigger boys, sitting five aside on the gunwale, bend to their paddles. . . . The helmsman, standing with a grip on a steering-oar, starts a tune. . . . Off we go, cutting through the swell to the weird chant of a part song. We cannot understand the words, for they are in the Cape Coast lingo of the boat-boys, but we are told by our host that, in accordance with a common custom, the crew are probably indulging in an improvised criticism of us as newcomers, speculating on the extent to which, judging from our appearance, we are good for a "dash." The next ditty, rendered in English to the swish of the paddles and the drum of their handles beaten on the gunwale, confirms the suggestion; it runs thus:
" Paper money (Swish, swish). Paper money (Bat, rat). No good (Swish, swish). No buy chop."
"Chop" is West Coast palaver for food; so common has the word become in this sense that our countrymen out here use it even when they are talking amongst themselves; thus, you will never hear them call a dining-room by any other name than a chop-room. The boat-boys reference to paper money is a hint to us that silver is the proper currency of the Coast, and that they so strongly object to the introduction of a paper currency that amongst themselves a silver coin is worth about twice as much as its equivalent in a note.
As the surf-boat plunges into the race of white horses the boys cease singing - they now need all their breath for keeping the little boat on the move so that she does not get swamped. The helmsman dexterously prevents the boat getting broadside on to the waves, and on either side of us we see backs bent double as in a rapid succession of strokes the paddles cleave the breakers; we are getting quite sufficient of a shower-bath from the spray to feel that we were well-advised to put on our macintoshes for this "joy-ride" to the shore. We are still a good distance from the land when the boat begins to grate on the bottom of the sea; the helmsman, keenly watching his opportunities, turns her where another wave, another, and yet another can be made to help the crew get her several yards nearer in. Suddenly, above the roar of the breakers, there rises a shrill word of command, and in the same second every boy of the crew is in the water, hauling the boat beachwards. Even when she is beached there is still water all around her. We are wondering whether we are expected to take off our shoes and stockings and wade, when our host tells us that all white people are carried ashore. Ladies are "chaired" to dry land; each sits tight in the armchair in which she has made the passage, whilst it is hoisted up and overboard by some of the darkie crew, and passed on to others who seize it by the legs, carry it aloft, and eventually lower it gently on to a spot well beyond the water's reach, for all the world as if they were paying homage to a heroine. The men make this last little stage of the journey in a comically different way; the darkies pick them up in their arms as if they were babies, or tuck them under one arm like naughty schoolboys.
Our host has a car waiting for us on the beach, and after he has seen about getting our luggage through the Customs he whisks us off to take up our residence in his bungalow, or, as he puts it, to have chop, make ourselves at home, and ask for anything we want.